Page Speed for Google Rankings and Conversions
Page Speed Affects Your Search Rankings and Conversions
What is Page Speed?
Page speed refers to how quickly a page on your website downloads into a visitor’s browser or phone. It can be measured a few ways. Google and some other sources report a score for your speed on a scale of 0-100. Others display it in seconds.
You can measure page speed a few ways:
- Time to First Byte (how long it takes for your browser to receive the first byte from the web server
- Page Load Time (how long it takes to fully display the page)
- Above the Fold Time (how long it takes to fully display as much as you can see without scrolling down)
However you measure it, faster is always better.
Page Speed and Google
I’ve written before about how a slow page speed can hurt your rankings in search results. Google has explicitly stated that how quickly a site loads into a browser is now a ranking factor. All other things being equal, a faster site will outrank a slower site.
Google scores your site separately for download to a desktop/laptop computer and for a phone. It’s quite common for those to get very different download speed scores. And mobile speeds are usually slower than desktop speeds.
Mobile Speed is Increasingly Important
Google is moving toward a mobile-first index, which means that the information they know about your website comes from the mobile version of your site, not the desktop version. Those two may be the same for a responsive site, but some websites actually have differing amounts of information between the two, usually with the mobile speed being slower. Since Google is now focusing on the mobile version of your website, it stands to reason that the page speed it measures on a phone is more important than the speed it measures for a desktop/laptop computer.
Page Speed and Your VisitorsThere’s another equally important reason to pay attention to your download speed: visitors. We are all increasingly stressed over time and as a result have less patience for watching a slow web page load in our computer. If your page is too slow, visitors may leave before the page ever loads for them. If they find you in search, become impatient and immediately go back to the search results to select something else, Google makes note of that as a black mark against your page. That will negatively affect your rankings moving forward.
Needless to say, the more people who abandon your website, the fewer conversions (converting visitors to paying customers) you will see.
Compared to a page with a two-second page speed, one that takes six seconds can expect to lose 25% of its visitors to abandonment.
Several years ago, Forbes reported
A 1-second delay in page load time equals 11% fewer page views, a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction, and 7% loss in conversions.
Assessing Your Page Speed
There are several tools you can use to assess whether your page downloads quickly enough.
Each of these measures and scores differently. You’ll get the best idea of your page speed by running and evaluating all of them.
Fixing Your Page Speed
How to fix a slow page is beyond the scope of this discussion. It’s technical enough that most small business owners aren’t equipped to attempt it. This is something best left to your webmaster.
If you’d like an idea of what’s likely to be involved, the folks at Moz list the main factors at play in this overview.
Update 12/3/2019: I’ve just found a very nice overview of how to increase your page speed written by Anna Foster at Top 10 Website Hosting in the UK.
Update 12/30/2019: Matthew Woodward in the UK has also written a helpful guide you may find useful. 6x Free Ways To Increase Website Speed (and search traffic!)
Update 7/21/2020: Now that mobile searches comprise more than half of all Google searches, your site’s mobile page speed is more important than ever. The folks at Hosting Ninja have a somewhat technical article, but if you’re struggling with slow loading of your site you might consider sharing this with your web designer. 10 Ways to Improve Mobile Page Speed